Tuukka Rask Should Have Received a Vezina Trophy Nomination

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins was robbed for receiving merely an award nomination–not even a win, just a nod and a place in the final three. He made an amazing case for the Calder Trophy win in the 2009-10 campaign by putting up a sub-2.00 goals against average and a save percentage higher than .930. He was alone at the top in both of those categories, had taken over for the then-Vezina winner Tim Thomas due to injury, was eligible for rookie status–and got snubbed.

Now he’s inherited the crown from Thomas yet again, got a one-year contract in which to prove his worth, spent some time during the lockout bettering the league standings of the Czech team HC Plzen (although of course that has no bearing on Vezina Trophy voting, but I just like to mention it because he really pulled Plzen out of the basement), took over as Boston’s starter and never looked back. Though he’s had a brilliant season, though he got people in and out of Bruins fandom talking about Vezina nods, when the three finalists were released yesterday, he was not there.

The finalists, by the way, are Sergei Bobrovsky, Antti Niemi and Henrik Lundqvist, who won the Vezina last year. I have no doubt in my mind that Bobrovsky will win no matter what, though. He helped lift the Columbus Blue Jackets up and get people seriously, legitimately talking about CBJ making a playoff run–though it was ultimately not to be. Even if Rask had been nominated, I would still fully expect Bobrovsky to win.

That being said, when you take a look at some of the goaltending stats, it seems like Rask would be a better fit in the finalists. He finished the regular season with a 2.00 GAA, the same as Bobrovsky, and better than Lundqvist (2.05) or Niemi (2.16). Bobrovsky tops in save percentage at .932, but Rask isn’t far behind at .929. Again, that’s better than Lundqvist and Niemi. When it comes to shutouts, Rask is tied for first in the league, netting five of them. Niemi and Bobrovsky had four while Lundqvist put up two.

For the stat lovers among us, Rask also does well when you consider a metric called the quality start, developed by Hockey Prospectus. Here’s how a quality start is calculated: it’s a game where the starting goalie has a save percentage of .917 or better. Alternately, it’s a game where the starting goalie allows up to two goals and still puts up a save percentage of .885 or above.  They’ve counted it out and teams usually win about 75 percent of games where their goalie has a quality start.

How many quality starts did Rask have this year? I counted out four in January, seven in both February and March and then eight in April. Sure, there were some games this year where Rask was torched for a whole bunch of goals and did not have a quality start in either measure, but the same goes for the Vezina finalists.

Plus, Rask’s style is just–he makes the difficult saves look like child’s play. Look at this save, for example:

http://youtu.be/GgLlL-4b_MY

Or this one, denying Steven Stamkos:

http://youtu.be/fsa7ofz88R4

Or this one:

http://youtu.be/3z-eOOntAp4

Or this one, which just about gave Doc Emrick a heart attack, apparently:

http://youtu.be/E5jTjDhnpYc

You get the picture. Rask is up to the task, even if sometimes it seems like he’s the only one working hard at it.

The fact is that Rask’s absence among the Vezina finalists has gotten people scratching their heads and wondering why. I’ve seen fans of other teams, including the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks, questioning the absence of Rask and usually debating whether or not Lundqvist should’ve made it in again. Talking heads on the NBC Sports mothership also wondered why number 40 wasn’t there.

In the end, the 30 general managers who make Vezina nominations flubbed this one by not including Rask, even though I wouldn’t have expected him to win. Perhaps the only upside of  this snub is that he can conceivably win a Vezina again in his future. He can’t redo a Calder campaign, but at age 26, there’s plenty of time for another Vezina-worthy season.

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